This is just my personal story of a memorable time in my life. You never know what amazing experiences await you just by having the courage to say “yes” especially if it’s an opportunity that requires a leap of faith. It will be worth it, I promise.
For 9 months I walked across the National Mall every morning and awed at The Capitol to my right and the Washington Monument to my left. Toward the end of my Dad’s 34 years as a civil servant with the Government (protecting us from terrorism and other selfless duties) my parents were assigned to D.C. and I did what any college senior would do…moved back in with them (lol) and started my career as a special events intern for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, (not to be confused with the Natural History museum next door with animals). NMAH is just a few blocks down from The Capitol.
For my parents, finally living in D.C. was the perfect pinnacle after a lifetime of service living in Spain, Nevada, Japan, Singapore, Washington State, Virginia, Hawaii…I think that’s all of them.
We spent the Fourth of July watching fireworks from the Washington Monument, ice skated on The National Mall and walked around the reflection pond and reflected. I even tap danced in the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade which brought back memories of our time in Japan and we watched the iconic Memorial Day concert from the steps of The Capitol.
For me, my time at the Smithsonian was magical. It was the perfect experience to excite me about the industry I was entering and keep my mind off of personal grief I was going through. As one of 19 Smithsonian offerings, NMAH houses all our favorite iconic items, inventions and original artifacts of our American culture such as the real Ruby Red Slippers, President Lincoln’s top hat, Funniest Home Videos camera, Julia Child’s Kitchen, the First Ladies Dresses and the actual Star Spangled Banner.
And when I came on board in 2009, NMAH had just reopened after a two year renovation so the special events Director, Coordinator and myself became quite a team and I learned so much from their leadership. I’m so lucky for many of the professional mentors and lifelong friends I have been able to make.
We planned and executed too many events to count including object donation ceremonies, receptions, galas, red carpets, donor appreciation parties, staff gatherings, etc. and the Presidential Inauguration events for NMAH. I was even present with just a couple dozen people when they disassembled President Lincoln’s pocket watch… rumored to have a secret message inscribed. It in fact did. It read, “Thank God we have a Government” inscribed by watchmaker Jonathan Dillon who secretly added that engravement while making repairs.
Now, if you’ve never been to D.C., please go within your lifetime! I’ve never seen larger buildings in my life. They are majestic. The National Mall is not a shopping mall (I once thought that) but 309 acres where locals walk their dogs, speed walk around the Tidal Basin or do yoga facing The Capitol. Each week there are various cultural events with tents, food carts and artistic or traditional performances by various cultures that make up America. It’s interesting, delicious and fun! And of course when a large National event is planned (like the ones on tv) the perimeter is lined with port-a-potties, guard rails and Jumbo-Trons in preparation for the influx of many first time visitors!
Something else that is interesting about D.C. is the design of the city itself. Pierre Charles L’Enfant designed the layout of D.C. similar to Paris which instead of planning perpendicular grids he created hubs and spokes. The Capitol is one of those main hubs and many streets extend off of it. That’s why you can stand at The Capitol and see The White House diagonally on Pennsylvania Ave. but also see the Washington Monument. The point of that is understanding its center point and importance in a physical way but also as a hub for the People of our Nation. The White House is on the Mall but is off to the side. All focus is on The Capitol.
Now during an Inauguration the city locks down in preparation so you can’t just come and go as usual. And because we had huge events planned every day for that weekend, we spent the night in the museum (just like the movie and yes everything came to life)! I’ll never forget going to dinner with my director and as we left the restaurant on Pennsylvania Ave., the evening prior to the Inauguration to head by to NMAH for the night, it was dark, crisp and quiet. She and I walked down the middle of barricaded Pennsylvania Ave. with just the glow of The Capitol before us with iconic, majestic buildings towering above us.
So in 2009 and again in 2013 I was present for the Inaugurations of President Obama. I woke up in our special events office and walked out on The National Mall, stood next to strangers from across the country and experienced an awe-inspiring moment in history. It was beautiful. I can’t put it all into words.
We were even permitted to view The National Mall from the roof of NMAH prior to the snipers’ arrivals, which you can see in my photos.
Toward the end of my internship I was able to tour The Capitol. I highly recommend experiencing the feeling of stepping foot inside this Historic Landmark once it’s safe to do so.
And in a country where we are free, feel it. Feel Free to travel, explore, start a business, play, create goals, find a higher purpose (that doesn’t cause harm). Visit D.C. and this place we see on the TV, on the news, this place called The Capitol. Stand there under the majestic dome or stand on the steps and look out toward the Lincoln Monument several miles away. Visit the Hope Diamond at the Natural History Museum, the plane Amelia Earhart flew across the U.S. at the Air and Space museum and even President Lincoln’s pocket watch at NMAH.
And the National Museum of African American History and Culture and The National Museum of the American Indian are respectable resources to help share the truth of how our country was established. They’re free by-the-way and allow us citizens to fill in the gaps in our own knowledge without the influence of media and social media.
Now, I know America is a toddler compared to the rest of the world and we have a lot of growing up to do. And while we make improvements, I think it’s still okay to take pride in America even if it isn’t perfect but it’s not okay to damage America or Americans in the process.
Thanks for taking a trip with me down memory lane! Here’s a few photos (pre-smartphone and pre-instagram) so please forgive the quality but enjoy taking a peek into this memorable time of my life. I wish I had more photos but I was working and had to be professional. 😉